• Richard Rodney Bennett
  • Music for Strings (1977)

  • Novello & Co Ltd (World)

Commissioned jointly by the Academy of St. Martin-in-the-Fields and the Cheltenham Festival

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  • 17 min

Programme Note

Music for Strings was commissioned jointly by the Academy of St Martin-in-the-Fields and the Cheltenham Festival, where it was first heard in July 1978 under Sir Neville Marriner. The work was written between October and December of the previous year and is dedicated to the composer, Elizabeth Maconchy.

In many ways this is one of Richard Rodney Bennet's darker works. The opening Arioso is a very personal utterance, its sensitivity and brooding melancholy rising to a passionate intensity with string writing of utmost skill and imaginative sonority. The second movement resembles a scherzo but the special effects and irregular rhythmic patterns create a menacing rather than a playful quality. The Elegiaco is the core of the work: the sorrowful opening, with anguished falling melodies and astringent harmonies, pervades the whole movement which, like the first moves towards a powerful climax before suddenly falling away to an uneasy close. The finale is another scherzo: while it is rather more relaxed than the other sections and contains several bursts of exuberance, the feeling of anxiety is never far away. The composer instructs that the movements should be played without a break.

British composers in this century have excelled in writing for the String Orchestra and this work must rank among the finest of the genre, not only for its musical content but also for the brilliance and originality or the scoring.